The Secret Diary of Adrian Petford Aged 39¾

The eureka moment

Posted in Before,New Zealand and Australia 2011 by Adrian Petford on August 1st, 2011

Lots of good ideas for things to see and do are all very well, but it doesn’t help if they don’t seem to fit together into any logical sequence, despite weeks of brainstorming. Thankfully, last week the moment came when everything finally clicked into place and I now have a really good itinerary planned for my New Zealand road tour.

Instead of driving all the way down to the South Island only to come back, I’m now flying directly from Auckland to Blenheim, taking a second car hire from there which I’ll then use to tour the area before heading back northwards by ferry and road. Those nice people at New Zealand Rent a Car have even done both hires as a bundled deal and waived the relocation fee for the second car which will be one-way finishing in Auckland at the end of the trip.

After a relentlessly busy few weeks, I can hardly believe the day of departure has finally arrived. My suitcases are packed and I’m now desperately double-double-double-checking I haven’t forgotten anything before I fly out tonight!

Three weeks to go…

Posted in Before,New Zealand and Australia 2011 by Adrian Petford on July 11th, 2011

It’s more than a little unsettling to think that exactly three weeks tonight, I’ll be jetting off on my next epic adventure. So much (still) to do, so little time!

I’m still trying to get a grip on some definite plans for my New Zealand tour. On Chris’ advice, I’ve decided to drop Queenstown as it’ll be the height of ski season so accommodation will be severely limited and at premium prices. Also weather may be a major factor in getting around down there. Could be snow! If you’re not a fan of the white stuff, Queenstown shows itself off much better in summer.

At the moment, I’m thinking of spending a few days in Napier, then heading south to Wellington, crossing to the South Island and then travelling down the east coast to Kaikoura for whale watching. I’m looking to stop in Blenheim on the way back to visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum, then back over to the North Island and heading back to Auckland, probably with a stop or two on the way. That should take care of my two weeks on the road nicely!

Five weeks to go…

Posted in Before,New Zealand and Australia 2011 by Adrian Petford on June 27th, 2011

Things are progressing nicely. My Australian visa was approved within a few hours and I have also booked the flights. I managed to get exactly the times, routings and flight numbers I wanted and will once again be travelling with Emirates. I used Expedia.co.uk to book as I found they offered by far the broadest range of flight options as well as other extras which could easily be added. The last of the boring formalities, travel insurance, is also sorted so I’m now free to organise all the fun stuff!

In terms of a hotel for my Sydney stopover, it was between the Radisson Sydney Hotel and Suites recommended by Steve and the Holiday Inn Old Sydney which was favoured by Bevis. Adjacent to Chinatown, The Radisson as a business-orientated hotel were very quick to accommodate my requests for early check in (and very early check out!) whereas the Holiday Inn boasts a wonderful location in The Rocks area, right next to the Harbour Bridge and along from Sydney Opera House. Bevis and Steve have been invaluable for their advice on the hotels and what to see and do in Sydney; I rate both their opinions highly so it was a difficult choice. In the end, I chose The Radisson simply on cost. At around half the price of the Holiday Inn, still for a 4-star hotel, I felt the premium price tag of the latter was out of my reach despite the spectacular harbour views. The Radisson is well placed in the central business district, close to Darling Harbour and many of the attractions. As I plan to spend a day in both The Rocks and the central city area, I don’t think it’ll ultimately matter too much where I’m based.

Sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb on medical grounds, as I’m still recovering from an operation I had earlier this year. The Sydney Tower looks like it could be a more sedate alternative. The lengths I’ll go to for a good photograph! As well as The Rocks, packed with places of historical interest, and Sydney Opera House I’m also considering a harbour tour by seaplane. Bevis says visiting Manly is a must!

As for New Zealand, I’m still lacking that spark of inspiration which will cause everything else to fall into place. It will come in a flash at some point, but hasn’t as yet. Since I started planning this trip, there have been several new aftershocks from the earthquakes in Christchurch, so I think being based there is definitely off the itinerary this time around. Instead of starting in Christchurch, driving across the country through Arthurs Pass, then travelling down the west coast to take in the glaciers, Milford Sound, Te Anau, Queenstown and Wanaka, I may just fly in and out of Queenstown, from where I’ll still be able to do most of that. I also like the idea of spending some time in Wellington, going across the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry and then down the east coast of the South Island from Picton to Kaikoura on the TranzCoastal scenic train. Kaikoura is renowned for its whale watching, which is something I’d like to experience and the rail route is another of New Zealand’s great train journeys.

New Zealand Trip Number 7… and AUSTRALIA!

Posted in Before,New Zealand and Australia 2011 by Adrian Petford on May 22nd, 2011

It looks like my seventh trip to New Zealand is finally brewing for August. After my plans were aborted by unforeseen circumstances last year, I’m really looking forward to being back in my “second home”! Due to existing commitments just before, I’m going to have to alter the dates slightly from my standard schedule, so will be starting out on a Monday this time. This would have meant an arrival in Auckland on the following Wednesday. Midweek isn’t ideal as all of my friends will be working, so this has forced me to be more creative and the result is… Australia!

The dates lend themselves perfectly to a few days in Sydney, a wonderful city I’ve always wanted to visit but have only ever marvelled at out of aeroplane windows on previous trips. I’ve considered an Australian stopover before, but the routings have never quite worked out – this time it looks like I can do it. One of my earliest memories is of travelling to Manchester Airport as a very small child in the early seventies to pick up my beloved Auntie Eunice, returning home from Australia where she’d emigrated – by boat as a “ten pound Pom” – a decade or so before. Ever since then I’ve always had a fascination with Australia and now I can’t wait to see it for the first time!

I’m sticking to the same routings as two years ago and will be flying with Emirates again, after their outstanding service on the previous trip. The first leg is 7 hours from Birmingham to Dubai by Boeing 777, followed by 14 hours on the Airbus A380 travelling from Dubai to Sydney. Airbus A380s will be essential for these longer flights in both directions this time; my days of stifling cramp on A340s or 777s for hour after hour are over. After 3 days in Sydney, I’ll catch the equivalent last leg (3 hours) of the A380 flight to Auckland on the Saturday. I’ll then have a full three weeks in New Zealand before heading home by the same route.

Everything is still in the very early stages of planning so far and as usual I’m a bit lacking in ideas at this point. In New Zealand, I’ll be going on a road tour for a week or two, possibly to the South Island again plus I’ll be able to attend my niece Chevelle’s 6th birthday party which will be really fun. Essentials for Sydney are the Harbour Bridge (Yes, I will be climbing it if they’ll let me!) and the Opera House. Not sure beyond that, although I’m sure Lonely Planet will save the day as usual!

But for now, it’s getting all the travel arrangements sorted. I’ve just applied for my Australian e-visa so once that’s gone through I’ll be able to book the flights!